At the NAHB Spring Leadership Meeting in Washington last week, Scott Ketcham, director of OSHA’s Office of the Directorate of Construction, provided a robust update on the safety agency’s activities and enforcement agenda in the NAHB Construction Safety and Health Committee meeting.
Ketcham explained key changes in OSHA’s Severe Violators Enforcement Program (SVEP) that went into effect last fall. The SVEP carries elevated penalties and stricter inspection requirements for employers “committing willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations.” Significantly, under OSHA’s multi-employer citation policy, “[a]n employer can qualify for SVEP even if none of its own employees were exposed to [SVEP-related] hazards.”
Late last year, the SVEP was expanded to include all OSHA standards and hazards. In addition, the requirements to be placed in the SVEP were dropped to just two willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices based on serious violations.
Ketcham shared the most-cited OSHA violations for the first seven months of the federal fiscal year 2023:
Top 10 Violations in Construction (10/1/22 - 4/30/23)
|Eye & Face Protection
|Fall Protection Training
|Cave-in Protective Systems
Ketcham also detailed enforcement emphasis programs within the Directorate of Construction, including the fall protection program announced just last month and one on outdoor and indoor heat-related hazards, which was issued in April 2022.
Beyond enforcement, OSHA’s construction office is working on guidance to improve jobsite safety. One initiative shared at the meeting is a pilot program for safety helmets meant to eventually replace hardhats as the preferred head protection in construction. Ketcham noted that 20% of head injuries in construction are the result of slips, trips, and falls and that hardhats do not protect against such injuries while helmets with chinstraps may stay on the head during a fall and offer protection.
OSHA is also working on revising construction standards to include explicit requirements that PPE must fit workers properly. This would align construction standards with those in general industry and maritime and address concerns heard from women in construction. A notice of proposed rulemaking is expected shortly.
Ketcham noted that OSHA, and especially the Directorate of Construction, is devoting a lot of resources and energy to going beyond enforcement with strategies to make health and safety a core value on jobsites.